McKinley Raham took his quadcopter drone out for a spin in Trinity Bellwoods Park a week ago.
Sadly, like an off-leash dog, the little flying robot wandered too far away, then blew out of sight in the wind.
“It was a little shocking,” said Raham, a Toronto teacher.
“Immediately my first thought was, I really hope this hasn’t landed on anyone or a car. I was a little terrified, to be honest.”
Like any good pet owner, Raham plastered the neighbouring street with handmade missing posters, hoping to be reunited with the Syma X5SC model, which at $150 including shipping is one of the cheaper models — but no less dear to his heart.
He also posted about it on Reddit with a link to a video of when it was last seen.
Happily, Raham was reunited with his drone a few days later. A nearby restaurant employee saw the poster and told his boss, who had found it, and arranged to give it back “in perfect condition,” Rahim said.
But he is not the only one to lose a drone. As drones become more popular with recreational users, photographers and companies, sometimes, like pets, they get lost.
Danny Vrekalic, who owns the store Drones Toronto, lost two drones himself back in his first six months operating the machines.
Vrekalic made a lost and found” website, which he hoped might bring his drones home. His two phantom models are still missing, despite the $100 reward each he offered.
He maintained the site for about a year, but “people just did not pick up on it,” he said.
“It just didn’t really take off — play on words,” said Vrekalic with a laugh.
Drones are not cheap, he said. Most models start at about $1,000, with some going for as much as $10,000.
Many of the newer drones have built-in GPS, so they don’t get lost very often, Vrekalic said, adding that many people include business cards with their contact info so drones can find their way home.
“I represent some animal welfare interests, and we were very successful in finding dogs and cats back to their homes — even birds,” he said. “I thought, ‘what the heck, people’s drones were getting away.’”
Keele said he started the site out of personal interest and intends it to be a kind of “clearing house for drones” to reach beyond the Shreveport area.
Drone manufacturer Precision Hawk partnered with the University of Toronto to start Project Breadcrumb, which tracks drones over the cellular network. Spokesperson Lia Reich said losing drones is “actually not common at all,” but the project, started this year, aims to make sure any that do lose their way return to their owners, or at least a good landing spot, safe and sound.